UC Berkeley Sikh Student Association hosts clothing giveaway to aid homeless residents

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Maya Valluru/Staff

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The UC Berkeley Sikh Student Association, or SSA, partnered with the Dorothy Day House, which hosts a daily breakfast for the local homeless population, to give away jackets and other winter necessities to Berkeley’s homeless residents Thursday.

In addition to new jackets, SSA gave out socks, beanies, gloves and blankets. The organization was able to help more than 300 individuals during the two-hour giveaway, according to campus junior and SSA President Jasmeen Sandhu.

She added that the clothing drive was made possible through a partnership with Sikh Families of America, a religious organization that donates and gives out clothing to cities with high homeless populations. No money was needed to host the event because of this partnership, according to Sandhu.

Adriana Garcia was one of the people who attended the drive and received winter clothing. She said she received a jacket, socks, a beanie and an extra blanket — items “we all need.”

“It was a blessed day,” Garcia said, “Everyone was in good spirits and happy. … It was wonderful — I am very thankful.

Gurshaan Bariana, SSA director of service, said he had the opportunity to speak with the people who came to the giveaway and learn about their lives. He mentioned that while some of the things he learned were hard to hear, the experience was “eye-opening.”

According to Sandhu, SSA was able to promote the event through advertising.

“A lot of homeless people came out — a lot of people who just needed jackets, and we had a really good turnout,” Sandhu said.

SSA decided to host the event to honor two sons of a Sikh guru who were held captive in freezing conditions because they refused to compromise their religious beliefs, Sandhu said in a Facebook post. She added that the drive was part of “Seva,” a belief in public service that is one of the main pillars of Sikhism.

Sandhu said SSA was expecting fewer people to attend the drive but was happy with the turnout and the organization’s ability to provide jackets to everyone who needed them.

“It was a great day,” Bariana said. “I think everyone came together, just working with a lot of people you go to board meetings with but you don’t actually have experiences with them. Everyone was able to do everything; everyone came on time; and the whole process was a lot quicker than we expected it to be.”

Sandhu and Bariana both said they hope the SSA jacket drive will become an annual event.

“I think it’ll be an annual event because warmth is one thing that homeless people in Berkeley really need, and we want to be able to provide them with that,” Sandhu said.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misspelled Jasmeen Sandhu’s name.